The Indian government and its Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) cut a sorry figure in a British court on Tuesday in their much-hyped effort to extradite embattled businessman Vijay Mallya, wanted for his Kingfisher Airlines’ default on loans worth nearly Rs 9,000 crore to various banks. They failed to present evidence to support their request to force him to return to India to face charges of alleged fraud.
At the end of what was a case management hearing, Mallya was excused from personally attending the next hearing on July 6 and granted an extension to his conditional bail till December 4 — the provisional date of commencement of a final hearing in the matter.
Before entering Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Mallya told a TV channel: “I have denied all allegations and (will) continue to deny them.” Asked why he was eluding Indian courts, he said, “I have not eluded any court. It is my lawful duty to be here (in Britain)…I have enough evidence to prove my case.”
Mallya said there was “no loan diverted anywhere” and reporters could “keep dreaming” about allegations he committed a billion-dollar fraud. “You can keep dreaming about the billion pounds provided you have facts to justify your question,” Mallya said in response to a reporter’s questions about the alleged missing money.
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The CBI’s case is that the 61-year-old tycoon colluded with senior executives of IDBI Bank to obtain a loan of Rs 900 crores despite his Kingfisher Airlines’ “weak financial position and low credit rating”.
Appearing for the Crown Prosecution Service, which is handling the case on behalf of the Indian authorities, barrister Aaron Watkins pleaded he hadn’t received the necessary evidence from the CBI to make progress. This was despite a postponement of the case management hearing by four weeks to facilitate the receipt of proof to substantiate its argument.
About 10 minutes before the scheduled hearing, Mallya appeared at the front entrance of the court building. TV cameramen and reporters, who had been waiting for over three hours, descended on him.
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Referring to the abuse he faced at a cricket match last week, he told journalists: “I am cheering for India amid great controversy.” He said he intended to go and watch India’s semi-final in the Champions Trophy against Bangladesh in Birmingham on Thursday. Asked why he disliked the media, he replied, “I don’t.”
He was then ushered into the court room and asked to sit all by himself in a dock meant for many people and behind what looked like a bullet proof glass barrier. His son, Siddhartha, sat in a gallery with the press.
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Proceedings began with the chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, who is presiding over the matter, ordering Mallya to stand up and state his name and date of birth, which he did.
“We have not received final evidence,” Watkins admitted. He also submitted no date has been provided as to when this would come. He further informed the magistrate that additional charges – which he clarified as being over and above the original accusation of Mallya having committed fraud securing a facility for his now-defunct airline from IDBI Bank in India – had not arrived, either.
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The magistrate asked Watkins if India was slow in its processing. Watkins responded that the CPS had “a good and close working relationship” with the CBI.
Standing for Mallya, barrister Ben Watson sought the magistrate’s intervention to erect barriers outside the courthouse to prevent the media from pouncing on his client and making it difficult for him to enter the building. Instead of granting this request, she excused the accused from a personal attendance in the upcoming case management hearing. Mallya accepted the offer.